Brazil: Bolsa Familia Program – Scaling-up Cash Transfers for the Poor

In 2003, the government of Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva launched a comprehensive program to stimulate growth and social progress. On the social side, the centerpiece was a sweeping reform of Brazil’s social safety net, the Bolsa Familia Program (BFP), which integrated four cash transfer programs into a single program under the umbrella of a new Ministry of Social Development. The transfers are made preferentially to women in each family. The program sup- ports the formation of human capital at the family level by conditioning transfers on behaviors such as children’s school attendance, use of health cards, and other social services.

Since its launch, the Bolsa Familia Program has grown exponentially, and by January 2005 had expanded to cover about 26.4 million people. By the end of 2006, about 44 million people are expected to be covered, at least two-thirds of whom are extremely poor.

In terms of numbers of beneficiaries, the Bolsa Familia Program is by far the largest conditional cash transfer in the developing world. Its systems for beneficiary selection, monitoring and evaluation, quality control, and scaling up have implications that extend well beyond Brazil.

The World Bank’s project to support the Bolsa Familia Program was conceptualized within a results-based manage- ment framework, of which there are two key aspects. First, mechanisms were developed to pace loan disbursements according to results – for example, through concrete technical improvements in areas such as beneficiary targeting. Activities undertaken under three technical components of the loan cumulatively contribute toward attainment of per- formance milestones. As these milestones are demonstrably met, they trigger increases in the rates of loan disburse- ments. Disbursement percentages increase from 8 to 9 to 11 percent, depending on performance. Second, the project includes a monitoring and evaluation system that is focused on results and thus intrinsic to both the architecture and the implementation of the program.


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